Posts Tagged ‘body’

Title: Rachel Un-named artist

Title: Rachel
Un-named artist

“My body belongs to me.”

I’ve had that thought echoing around in my head for the last couple of days. Not all of me completely believes it, but more of me believes it than used to.

Unfortunately, I have a recurring body memory of a type of abuse that is difficult for me to accept happened to me. At this point, I have become resigned to the fact that not only must it have happened, but it likely happened at a variety of ages and I had different experiences with it. I seem to remember it from the different mind sets that I associate with being older or younger and sometimes the body memories just indicate pain, sometimes they simply are intrusive feeling, but not painful, and, worst of all, sometimes they seem to be memories of mixed pain and pleasure.

It took me much of a year to come to this point of acceptance and I thought that once I accepted that there was a basis in reality for the body memories, they would go away, but they didn’t. Thankfully, they did become easier to tolerate- yes, I am still dealing with horrible physical sensations, but at least I am no longer raking myself over the coals about whether I can believe myself or not. But why am I still experiencing those sensations on a frequent basis? Previously, I would have thought that there was something out of control inside or there was some harmful impulse involved, but I have recently learned that even when something seems to be completely out of character and to have no good purpose, if I sit with it for long enough, I may discover that there actually is a purpose.

So, I asked myself, “What do I need to understand from these body sensations? Is there a message or a lesson here for me?” And I sat quietly and listened.

The answer astonished me. In a weird sort of way, my claiming that those experiences happened to me also was a statement that my body belongs to me. There seems to be layer upon layer of meaning and implication for me here and I’ve been in a tiny bit of shock at the intensity of feelings involved. But, clearly, this is about my doing something very important to help myself and it’s actually a sign of healing.

Rather than simply rejecting the experience out of hand, I can now see that I need to accept what happened, in order to claim the me in the experience. Yes, I hated what happened, but it happened to me, it happened to my body. In order to be whole, I need to have ownership of my body, but if I make it in my mind that the abuse happened to “that body that I had as a child”, then I have rejected my body. It’s like I have made it my body’s fault that I felt the abuse, when my body was just doing its job: experiencing what was happening to it. The fault doesn’t lie with me for experiencing what happened, it lies with my abusers for putting me through the experiences. So somehow, the repeated body memories reflected the need to and I think even facilitated my shifting away from rejecting my body for feeling. I’m no longer furious with my body and I don’t feel like it betrayed me. I do feel very sad that I have been left in a state of feeling so much hatred for my body for so long.

Another layer is that I also felt as though this abuser wanted to possess me- that I was supposed to belong to him. But somehow, even as a child, I knew that his belief was wrong. I wasn’t supposed to belong to him. I wasn’t supposed to belong to anyone. I wasn’t sure what the relationship was supposed to be like, but I did know that people didn’t own other people. Unfortunately, I did a good job of “divorcing” myself from my body, so I didn’t understand that my body is irrevocably a part of the whole me. Because of the dissociation, I viewed it as something separate, so I had a lot of confusion as to whether he could own my body. He acted like he could do whatever he wanted to with it and he had control over my body during the abuse, not me. Anyways, I didn’t really want to be involved in what was going on. Much of the time I hated that I was trapped in a body that was being abused. If I could have gotten rid of my body, I would have; after all, I was rejecting my body and blaming it for feeling.

So I was left with confusion over whether he “owned” my body or not. What happened in these particular memories was experienced as being strongly dehumanizing and underlining how completely and utterly powerless I was in the situation. Can a “thing” own a body? Did his control over what was happening to me mean that he owned my body? If I couldn’t decide what happened to my body, how could it still belong to me? But if I can choose to “own” what happened to me then, somehow things change. I am no longer that child who was devastated by what was happening to her. While I don’t want to deal with what happened and I hate experiencing it in memories, the reality is that I can deal with it and tolerate it- at least in small doses. I most definitely am a person and not a thing and I do have power in my life. I now have power over what happens to this body that I am in. He controlled my body when I was alone with him as a child, but he didn’t really own it, not even then. Most certainly no one but me owns my body now.

It’s time for me to take off the blinders and see how much I have blamed my body and how resistant I have been to living in and experiencing things in my body. Most of what is there for me to exist is neutral to wonderful! I am missing so much by hating my body and pushing it away as hard as I can. It is time for me to accept that yes, that child’s body was my body. The abuse really did physically happen to me. I physically felt things that no child should ever feel. But none of it was my body’s fault. It’s time to accept and own that my body does belong to me. It’s time to start living in my body.

Note: Most likely I didn’t actually think any of this out nearly this clearly as a child, but it’s the best that I can “translate” what I am being told by my insides now. One of the problems about writing is that it makes everything seem so much more clear than it really is. I do not claim that I have clear memories of these experiences as a child, this simply is the best that I can piece together from remembered feeling states/ flashes of memories/ and bit of internal communication. It doesn’t really matter whether I am completely accurate about how I understood things/ felt then; I just need to get close enough to allow me to move forward with the healing that I need to do.

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I “know” that my body belongs to me. I really do. I just wish that all of me knew the same thing. When someone treats your body like it belongs to them, it does not matter what age you are at, it creates a great deal of confusion. And when someone treats your body in such a way when you are a child, at a time when you are forming your views about your place in the world, how can you help but come to believe that your body is not fully your own at a very deep level?

Because we are taught lies not only by what is said to us, but also by how we are treated. And this is a terrible lie.

In Elizabeth Cunningham’s book, Daughter of the Shining Isles, the main character, Maeve, talks about self sovereignty. When she is raped as a teenager, she learns that she cannot have full control over her body, under all circumstances, and that terrible things can happen to women. But she also comes to understand that despite needing to deal with the realities of the world, her body actually belongs to no one other than her. She has the right to say what will and will not happen with her body, even if there are times when she cannot enforce that right with others. Somehow, she comes to understand that being violated and having control over her body taken away from her does not actually make her belong to those who do the violating. She still belongs to herself.

This sort of nuanced thinking is well beyond a child’s capability. In fact, I suspect that it is something that most adults would have a very hard time finding their way to. But there is something very important there that I am trying to find a way to incorporate into my own self understanding.

If we can find a way to hold on to ourselves, no matter what happens to us, no matter how we are treated, our essence still belongs to ourselves. Just because someone acts like we belong to them, that does not actually mean that we really do belong to them. We can see the lie for what it is and not allow it to rule us.

Unfortunately, when the lie is taught to us as we are forming our self concept, extinguishing that lie is not a simple matter, and it can take a very long time to unlearn, but it is certainly doable. As I was starting to relearn that my body belongs to me, I spent a lot of time looking at parts of me and noting to myself, “This is my arm. It is the arm of an adult, not a child. I get to say who touches this arm and who this arm touches. I get to say what type of touch is OK with me. And I can change my mind at any time that I need or want to. No one else has the right to make those decisions.”

So, now the “greater me” understands that my body belongs to no one else and that it is my right and responsibility to keep myself safe from harm. But I still catch younger parts of me being very confused about the concept. There is still an underlying belief that I am meant to be used and that I have no right to protect myself. Fortunately, I am in a safe relationship and have been for many years and my husband has no intention or desire to “use” me. This has helped to keep me safe. My heart cries for those who have the same beliefs and who are not in safe relationships, because they are so vulnerable to being harmed again.

I am not entirely sure how to convince the youngest parts of me that it is safe for me to believe that no one else has the right to determine what is done to my body. My guess is that it will not be done directly. I think that it will instead be accomplished through helping those parts feel safe enough to experience the natural and healthy reactions to being abused. I need to help them learn that it is safe to be angry about what was done and that what was done was indeed very wrong. He had no right to harm me and I had every right to expect to be protected from harm. The fact that I was allowed to be hurt so badly is wrong at a very fundamental level. And finally, while I perceived that my survival at the time was dependent upon my submitting to him, I now exist in a time and place where that is no longer the case.

My hope is that eventually, the parts of me that are stuck in the memories will become less and less stuck, so that they can see that my current reality is so very different from my then reality. I wasn’t able to resist his using my body when I was young, but I have carried that body forward in time and grown it, and now it is the body of a strong and capable woman. This body that I have now is no longer the helpless body of a child.

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